Storytelling The Mission: A Necessity for Nonprofits
by Rich Napolitano
Senior Vice President, External Relations & Chief Development Officer
I recently attended a conference of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) in Washington, DC. During the annual conference in our nation’s capital, a lot of time was spent on advocacy — advocating on behalf of Community Health Centers and supporting the work they do throughout the country. The educational sessions on advocacy work were informative and extremely helpful in providing a blueprint for future success at my own nonprofit health center.
What was most apparent though was the strengthening of my belief that storytelling your organization’s mission is vital to ensuring future patient, donor, and community engagement, and ultimately continued success in providing the comprehensive, quality health care for so many patients in our region. Of course, it’s always important to know your nonprofit organization’s mission statement, and most can recite theirs verbatim, but how many can tell a story that will depict what the mission is and what it means to the community?
At Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, we need to paint a picture that clearly describes what our Community Health Center does – each and every day. Why? Because like many nonprofits our health center is more than just “seeing a doctor.” So being able to recite that mission is not enough and quite frankly, I believe that every employee should be able to do this – not just the Marketing and Development folks. So now we are on our own mission of gathering stories to tell – stories to share with others via social media and our website, public gatherings or even just in conversations with others. When you’re telling these personal stories about what makes our health center special, and why our mission is so important, it communicates in a couple hundred words what might otherwise take thousands.
While we still have plenty more stories to gather, we now have enough that we’ve been able to compile a “Storytelling the Mission Book” with over 20 narratives woven by our doctors, patients, medical assistants, and more. Being able to tell the story makes it real, and I am now convinced will be one of our most useful arrows in our quiver when it comes to strengthening our brand and engaging more people – patients, community leaders, and donors alike.